CHICAGO - As rumors persist about possible union-backed attacks on GOP gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner, Illinois trade unions are once again hedging their political bets and doling out campaign donations to both Democrat and Republican state legislators. Legislators that a Governor Rauner would need to "shake up Springfield" and take on the unions and their bosses.
State Board of Election records show that in the past two weeks, Republican state senators Pam Althoff, Karen McConnaughay, Mike Connelly and Matt Murphy, as well as GOP state representatives Jim Durkin, Dennis Reboletti, Dan Brady, Kay Hatcher, CD Davidsmeyer, Tom Demmer, Tom Morrison and Barbara Wheeler, have accepted checks ranging from $1000 to $5000 from the Chicagoland Operators Joint Labor-Management PAC (see below the fold).
The PAC donated to only two Democrats during the closing days of 2013 - State Senator Karen Lightford and State Rep Sam Yingling (see below the fold).
James Sweeney, the president and business manager of the AFL-CIO associated International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150, heads up the Chicagoland Operators Joint Labor-Management PAC (COJLM PAC), a group that says its purpose is "to support candidates and legislations whose principles and purposes are consistent with labor and management co-operation."
While the COJLM PAC's purpose sounds amenable, Sweeney himself is an outspoken opponent of the "Right to Work" movement gaining momentum in the Midwest, including Indiana, Michigan and Iowa.
Neighboring Indiana became the 23rd state to adopt "Right to Work" rules in February 2012, a huge blow to labor unions nationwide. In a letter to Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels in January 2012, Sweeney wrote:
Sweeney clarified why he held the position that workers should join unions that represent a workplace's employees. It's because unions assume the freedom to choose whether or not to be represented by unions allows most workers to refuse representation, leaving union bosses with a diminished source of revenue:
In the same letter, Sweeney condemned Governor Daniels for embracing the Right to Work effort in Indiana eight years after Daniels asked for the IUOE's endorsement when he first ran for governor:
Sweeney quoted from Daniels' 2004 letter to the IUOE in which he stated his agreement with the IUOE on the prevailing wage issue and no need for a "right to work" statute:
"Prevailing wage" refers to the standard amount workers must be paid per hour on taxpayer-funded projects, preventing non-union construction companies from underbidding union crews, ultimately raising project costs for taxpayers.
For instance, if a school in downstate Illinois seeks bids to have their halls painted, "prevailing wage" will prohibit local self-employed, non-union painters from bidding on the job unless the school pays the higher wages demanded by union painters and fulfills prevailing wage contract demands. Prevailing wage demands can cost taxpayers ten to twenty percent more, Right to Work advocates say.
In 2012, Governor Daniels looked to Republican majorities in Indiana's Senate and House to deliver the legislation to his desk, and, he said, turn Indiana's economy and job situation around.
"Seven years of evidence and experience ultimately demonstrated that Indiana did need a right-to-work law to capture jobs for which, despite our highly rated business climate, we are not currently being considered," he said in a statement after signing the bill.
Rauner's promised efforts to diminish union bosses' power in Illinois may ultimately lie in the hands of the state lawmakers - many of which are financially backed by state employee and teachers unions, and now the Chicagoland Operators Joint Labor-Management PAC.
Of those lawmakers receiving funds from the PAC during the last week of December, only one - Dennis Reboletti - has a primary opponent. The rest either are not yet opposed in the primary or the general, or their opponents are assumed to not be a threat to their re-election. State Senator Pam Althoff is not up for re-election in 2014 and State Rep Kay Hatcher is retiring in 2014.
The list of PAC funding recipients includes:
UPDATE: The Chicagoland Operators Joint Labor-Management PAC is listed with the ISBE as at 6170 Joliet Road in Countryside, Illinois, although the campaigns above listed the address at 6200 Joliet Road, the same location as the IUOE Local 150.
ISBE records show IUOE Local 150 President James Sweeney as the Chicagoland Operators Join Labor-Management PAC''s chairman.